May 6, 2012

Let’s not mess up rivalry

by Kelly Hawes

— Ending the Indiana-Kentucky basketball rivalry in a dispute over where to play the games would be stupid.

Come on.

These two teams have proven through years of contests that the rivalry is a great one regardless of where the games are played.

The Wildcats owed the Hoosiers one for that shot last year that resulted in their only loss of the regular season. They got their revenge with a 12-point victory in the NCAA tournament.

Both teams are highly touted going into next season, and the Hoosiers would like nothing better than to score another win.

I understand the argument that the atmosphere is better if the games are played on each team’s home court. That might be true.

Kentucky, though, apparently favors the revenue it can generate by moving the games to a neutral site where it can sell more tickets.

That’s another factor worth considering.

Still, there has to be a way to find middle ground.

Maybe the schools could develop a four-year rotation where each team would get a home game, and two games would be played on a neutral court.

Admittedly, there are bigger issues in the world today. If Indiana and Kentucky never again meet on the basketball floor, the world will keep on spinning, and college basketball will continue much as it always has.

Nevertheless, it’s irritating to think a great rivalry could come to a screeching halt over a petty disagreement.

The two schools have been competing on the basketball floor for a long time. They played 10 times before 1969, and they’ve played every year since.

In the early years, the games were played on neutral courts before moving back to the respective campuses in 1976. They remained on campus through 1986 and then rotated between Louisville’s Freedom Hall and the RCA Dome in the 1990s and early 2000s.

They’ve been rotating between the two campuses since 2006.

To be perfectly honest, most fans don’t care where the games are played.

They want a fair arrangement. If the teams meet on a court that is friendlier to one team this year, the fans want it to be on a court that is friendlier to the other team the following year.

They want a fair fight. And they want their own team to win.

It is refreshing, I guess, that Indiana is concerned about preserving that campus atmosphere. It is more fun for the students, after all, if the game is played on the school’s home court. Driving to Indianapolis or Louisville for the game just isn’t the same, and not many students will make the trip.

It’s easy to lose track of the fact that college basketball games started out to be about colleges. It was a chance for the students from one school to take on the students from the school down the road.

That was long before the money took over, and the students got separated from the equation.

So maybe the folks at IU should be applauded for trying to preserve a bit of that campus tradition.

Still, we shouldn’t forget about the vast majority of basketball fans scattered around the state and across the country. Some are alumni. Others are just fans of their favorite team.

Most watch the games on television. It doesn’t matter where the games are played. They just want to see them played.

They want to see that last-second shot that Christian Watford put up to knock off the No. 1 team in the country. They want to see that great block or that spectacular slam dunk. They want to witness the excitement that comes with a game like Indiana vs. Kentucky.

It really would be stupid to screw that up.

• Kelly Hawes is managing editor of the Pharos-Tribune. He can be reached at 574-732-5155 or